We created an interactive, storytelling website to help people understand how data, algorithms, automated decision systems are used in New York City government.

a screenshot of the skyline of New York City with text that says 'Automating NYC and (en)coding inequality?'

Screencap of the landing page.


This project is my applied thesis for the Harvard Kennedy School. It was supported by the Jain Family Institute.


How can we help people understand big data and algorithms in public services?


We created Automating.NYC to open the black box around data, algorithms, and predictive analytics in city government and encourage people to advocate for automated decision systems that are designed with equity in mind.


Explore Automating.NYC here.


Background Research From September through December 2018 we conducted extensive background research focused on literature reviews and interviews with ethics and machine learning experts. In January 2019 through March 2019 we shifted to interviews with city agencies and companies which make the proprietary algorithms for our case studies.

Ideation We used design methodologies like the KJ method and card sorting to storyboard and develop the initial flow of the website.

Design We developed the initial site colors based on photos from an in-person visit to New York City. We then tested the colors, fonts, and other site elements with users until we reached a design aesthetic centered on being friendly and informative.

Prototyping We user tested multiple prototypes, started with low fidelity paper prototypes and moving on to higher fidelity wireframes. We user tested continuously as we developed the website, with over 30 user tests informing the final product.

After finishing, we sent a beta version of the website to experts and city agencies to confirm the accuracy of the information and get final feedback before publishing.

an image of a person sitting in front a table with pieces of paper in front of them. the papers have drawings of avocados on them.

Usability testing a paper prototype of the toy algorithm.


October 2018 - May 2019


Adobe Illustrator


Jon Truong
Elyse Voegeli
Aki Younge
Deepra Yusuf


What’s an algorithm? Let an avocado explain. Fast Company

Featured in A Toolkit for Centering Racial Equity Throughout Data Integration from Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) at the University of Pennsylvania

Featured in Critical Data Literacy Tools: A Guidebook from the Data Justice Lab at the University of Cardiff